Mauricio Pochettino is happy to take the blame if his Tottenham side are knocked out of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night.
Newcastle are the visitors to White Hart Lane as both sides look to make it into the semi-finals and move one step closer to a March final at Wembley.
Tottenham overcame Brighton in the last round despite making 10 changes from their previous Premier League fixture, and Pochettino had a similar rotation philosophy during his time at Southampton.
Although he would not be drawn on who would feature against Alan Pardew’s men other than to confirm Emmanuel Adebayor’s absence, Pochettino insists any team he picks will be good enough to get the job done.
“For me, it was a lack of respect for my players,” Pochettino said, when asked about being criticised for making changes.
“I always defend my players. If we have players in the squad, it is because we believe in them. If not, why are the players in the squad?
“But always when you lose, people take something to criticise you. For me, it’s a lack of respect, not for me but for the players who played in the game.
“If you read the starting 11 maybe you will realise the criticism is not for the starting 11, for the players I put on the pitch, it’s because we didn’t score. I accept the criticism, but I can’t accept criticism for the players.”
Progression in the Europa League, having come through a two-legged August qualifier against AEL Limassol, as well as their Capital One Cup run and a packed festive schedule means Pochettino would be ready to freshen up his side on Wednesday – and would face the consequences if the decision backfired.
When asked if there would be changes, he said: “Maybe. At the beginning of the season, we played a lot of games, 26 official games.
“I think all players have had the chance to play, in different games, in the Premier League, Capital One Cup and Europa League. For tomorrow, maybe one player is tired and not fresh, and if another team-mate is in better condition then why not?
“But I am a manager and I need to make a decision. You cannot pick a team to guarantee that we go to the semi-final.
“In football it is easy to talk after the game. But the important thing is taking the decision before. When you are the coach, you have all the information and if you win, you are the best and if you don’t, you are a s**t who made the wrong decision. This is true.”
One player who will not be considered is Adebayor, with Pochettino insisting it is “impossible” for the 30-year-old to play a part.
Adebayor was granted compassionate leave last week as he flew to Ghana for “personal reasons” but has since returned to the training ground.
His future at White Hart Lane remains unclear and Pochettino revealed there is no chance of the former Arsenal and Manchester City man making a comeback in the final eight of the cup.
His last appearance came in a 2-1 loss at home to Stoke on November 9 and he has scored just once in the Premier League this season.
When asked whether Adebayor could be involved against Alan Pardew’s side, the Tottenham manager said: “He was back yesterday, but play tomorrow? No.
“He began training after one week yesterday so it would be impossible for him to be ready tomorrow.”
Pochettino was coy on any other injury concerns or fitness doubts and it remains to be seen how many changes the Argentinian makes following the 2-1 win at Swansea on Sunday.
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